U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Pocatello Field Office|
Wildland fire management continues to play a significant role in the Pocatello Field Office. Public lands managed by BLM adjoin some of the fastest growing communities within the greater Pocatello area.
The communities of Arimo, Chubbuck, Downey, Inkom, Lava Hot Springs, McCammon, Pocatello, Pocatello Creek/Buckskin Area, Portneuf, Robin and Virginia occupy and are expanding in relatively narrow valleys that are surrounded by steep slopes. The slopes are densely vegetated with trees, shrubs and grasses that pose a significant fire risk to the adjacent communities.
BLM fire managers have identified three priorities to address and minimize the risk of wildfire to local communities: 1) help communities develop fire protection plans and modernize their fire and public safety equipment; 2) send BLM firefighters and equipment to suppress wildland fires that threaten communities; and 3) remove the excess trees, shrubs and other vegetation that fuel wildland fires. These priorities are being accomplished through partnerships and mutual aid agreements with county, city and volunteer fire departments. BLM is also teaching homeowners how to establish “defensible space” around their property to reduce their vulnerability to wildfire. In addition to treating juniper woodlands in the fuels program we also manage Douglas-fir and aspen regeneration in conjunction with the forestry program.
The wildfire situation in southeast Idaho is not unique. Most of the western United States has experienced frequent catastrophic wildland fires over the past 25 years. A main reason for the severe wildfires has been the buildup of vegetation due to a century-long effort of aggressive fire suppression. Wildfires can be destructive, but putting out every fire as quickly as possible has exacerbated the problem. The elimination of wildfire has resulted in landscapes that are overgrown with vegetation and which burn in a catastrophic manner when fires ultimately occur.
Fire managers in Southeast Idaho are working to change this dangerous pattern. We are seeking opportunities to utilize the natural role of fire to reduce the buildup of vegetation where appropriate. Firefighters and equipment are continuing to be sent immediately to extinguish wildland fires that threaten lives, homes and property. Valued natural resources are also continuing to be protected from wildfire, including riparian areas, sage-grouse habitat, crucial big game winter range, cultural and historical sites, and developed recreation sites, which we all want to preserve.
However, in other areas the use of prescribed fire (a carefully-planned and managed fire ignition) can be appropriate, beneficial and safe. In Southeast Idaho prescribed fires are ignited to address the buildup of trees, shrubs and other vegetation on our public lands. BLM fire managers also use methods that do not involve fire to reduce and remove excessive and hazardous vegetation.
Fire management is complex and challenging, and is continuing to evolve. Through partnerships, education, public involvement, comprehensive land use planning and careful implementation, the BLM is working to reduce the threats while expanding the benefits of wildland fire on the landscape.
Pocatello Field Office | 4350 Cliffs Drive | Pocatello, ID 83204